Comedy shows can often follow a similar format. Tell a few one-liners, throw in some witty anecdotes, enjoy the occasional bit of banter with the audience, then bow and exit smiling.
Adam Hills has got no time for your formulas.
The Aussie comic ended his international Clown Heart tour at the Leeds Grand Theatre on Sunday with a show that threw away the rulebook but delivered something truly special. From stalker fans to striptease, sign language to singing, there was simply too much to try and pack into a standard review.
So here’s 10 things I learned from Adam Hills:
1. Adam Hill’s biggest fans will attend multiple shows, follow him around the country and even fly long-haul to make it to a gig on time. Before Hills even got to his planned material, he took the time to recognise the die-hards and thank them for their support.
2. But comedy virgins were welcomed too. The young man in the tweet above was Andrew, a fifteen-year-old from Leeds experiencing Clown Heart as his first ever comedy show.
3. Hills has an uncanny knack for accents - and the phrase he needs to perfect his Yorkshireman impression is both surprising and brilliant.
4. One of the sign language symbols for Leeds (the show at the Grand had British sign language interpreters on stage throughout) is to make two owl claws with your hands, a reminder of the city’s emblem.
5. A recent stint of looking after his kids did something to his brain… something that resulted in Hills blowing raspberries on the stomachs of several audience members. You had to be there.
6. Clown Heart was not just stand-up comedy. While the laughs come thick and fast, the show is more like motivational speaking meets inspiring real-life stories - and stresses the importance of laughing in the face of death.
7. Because Hills has experienced his fair share of tragedy. His father’s recent death, caused by leukemia, could have made it difficult to crack a joke - but for the Aussie comedian, the experience only made him more determined to get on stage and make people laugh…
8. ...and make his daughters laugh as well. Turns out there’s always something to chuckle at, even when doing something as emotional as spreading a loved one’s ashes.
9. He’s giving a platform to a truly inspirational man - Craig Coombes. After being told his thyroid cancer was terminal, Coombes declared a new trend of Naked Tuesdays and started posting naked selfies once a week. Hills got involved, and their subsequent bond has seen him appear alongside Hills at his other shows. Too ill to travel to Leeds, Coombes said hello to Leeds via Facetime in what was a truly emotional ending to the show (and the tour).
10. But you have to end on a laugh. Which resulted in Hills joining his friend in stripping down to just his underwear and singing a parody song about kicking cancer ‘in the d*ck’. Hills then stood in the lobby of the Grand, personally collecting for charity in just his Aussie-flag themed boxers and a dressing gown.
He may be a clown, but Hills is certainly all heart.
Clown Heart will be available on DVD from November 20.